Both candidates in the close race for lieutenant governor appear to be preparing for days or weeks of vote-counting before an official winner is declared.
Only 11,370 votes separate Democrat Linda Coleman from Republican Dan Forest out of 4.4 million votes cast. Forest declared victory Tuesday night, but Coleman has not conceded.
Coleman’s campaign spokesman said she was going to wait until later this week, when the state knows how many provisional and mail-in absentee ballots are left to be counted, before she takes a next step.
“We are ensuring that every North Carolinian’s voice was heard at the ballot box,” said Micah Beasley, Coleman’s campaign spokesman.
At least 46,700 provisional ballots have not been counted, according to a partial tally by the State Board of Elections. That would be enough to tip the outcome Coleman’s way. Local boards will wait until 5 p.m. Friday to make sure they’ve received all ballots mailed by Election Day.
Coleman is a former state personnel director and former state House member who had the strong backing of the State Employees Association of North Carolina. Forest is an architect and first-time candidate.
Coleman sent a fundraising email to supporters early Wednesday morning saying the campaign needed contributions “to make sure every vote is counted.”
In preparation for a possible recount, Forest’s campaign has hired a lawyer and is lining up volunteers in every county to watch local elections officials count votes, said Hal Weatherman, Forest’s campaign manager.
“We will defend the victory we won last night,” Weatherman said. “We’re not going to leave anything to chance. We’ve worked too hard for too long for anything to undermine the victory. We want everything to be done fair and by the book. We want to prepare for every contingency.”
Candidates in statewide races can ask for recounts if the difference in totals is less than 0.5 percent of votes cast or 10,000 votes, whichever is less. If Coleman asks for a recount, she must do so in writing by noon Nov. 20.
Recounts can keep election outcomes in limbo for weeks. Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge of Lillington asked for a recount of votes in his close race against Republican Renee Ellmers two years ago. The process took more than two weeks. Etheridge conceded after the recount showed him 1,489 votes behind.
Unofficial totals show Coleman won large counties, including Wake, Mecklenburg, Cumberland, Durham and Forsyth. Provisional ballots in some of those counties number in the thousands.
Coleman’s campaign manager said in a statement Wednesday that she would be lieutenant governor when all the votes are counted.
SEANC, which threw its PAC money and organizational heft behind Coleman’s campaign, is considering how it can help her with the next phase of vote counting, said Kevin LeCount, SEANC political director.
“Obviously, we care deeply about this race, as do our members,” he said. “It’s possible for her to win this thing.”